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Addressing Gender-Based Violence is the Responsibility of Everyone in the Development and Humanitarian Community

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains one of our world’s greatest challenges, impacting one in three women during the course of their lifetime. For those displaced or otherwise affected by humanitarian emergencies, the risk and vulnerability to many forms of GBV including sexual violence or exploitation, intimate partner violence, and child marriage increases significantly. While the use of rape as a weapon of war may garner the bulk of public attention, increased risk also results from displacement itself. For displaced women and girls fulfilling essential needs such as using the latrine, obtaining food and water or collecting fuel may present not only difficulties but danger. These issues are compounded by the breakdown in family and community support structures and services, as well as the often weak infrastructure and lack of privacy and protections available in camps or other settlements for displaced people.

An inter-agency task team led by UNICEF and UNFPA recently released the newly revised Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery.* This revision encompasses the many changes to the humanitarian system and architecture in the decade since the guidelines were originally introduced, as well as lessons learned and new knowledge regarding GBV and the implementation of these strategies. The guidelines, endorsed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, are a practical tool designed to “assist humanitarian actors across all sectors, as well as communities affected by armed conflict, natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, to coordinate, plan, implement, monitor and evaluate essential actions for the prevention and mitigation of gender-based violence.”

These guidelines are designed to provide non-GBV specialists in each sector—health, education, water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH), camp management, and nine others—with the specific strategies, standards, and tools they need to provide effective and quality humanitarian interventions in their fields that mitigate the risk of, prevent, and respond to GBV. For the health sector, the guidelines highlight that health care providers are often the first point of contact with survivors and emphasize the importance of ensuring availability of reproductive health services. The guidelines point health providers to the Minimum Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health (MISP), the standardized package of critical reproductive health services—including clinical management of sexual violence—that can be quickly mobilized at the onset of a crisis. They also stress the need for providers to be able to provide services to deal with impacts of other forms of GBV, such as injuries or complications from intimate partner violence. These efforts are not intended to replace the vital work of GBV specialists and GBV-specialized programming, but to complement and reinforce them.

It is the responsibility of the full humanitarian community to protect those affected by the crises they are responding to, including those at risk of GBV. Together the humanitarian community can take significant steps toward ending violence against women in emergencies.

*The Washington D.C. launch of the guidelines was this week.

This piece of part of series of blogs from PAI for the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV

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